He always observed from behind a barrier. That would be the best way to explain his relationship with them. Always watching, never helping nor hindering their growth.
In some ways he felt he intruded on them just by being there, but he couldn't stop. He often struggled to understand who he was, protecting. The naive, carefree roommate? Or the shielded best friend?
Who could Youchi trust to not hurt the other? Neither Sawamura nor Miyuki could take care of themselves let alone each other. Yet they tried anyway — he'd seen the lingering stares and less than appropriate-length touching.
However, the most frustrating part had been realizing that neither knew of their own feelings, let alone each others’. That moment had made him want to interfere for the first time. It had resulted in quite a bit of face-to-pillow shouting.
Months of dancing around each other pushed him to the limit. Soon he tried to extend his boundaries as a window observer. He set up situations for Miyuki and Sawamura to interact — kicking everyone out of Miyuki’s room early, or sending Sawamura out for drinks when he knew Miyuki would be out.
As shortstop, Youchi could easily see the energy that entered Miyuki whenever Sawamura took the pitcher’s position. Both of them lit up whenever they saw the other yet it had taken Miyuki over five months to inadvertently admit his crush on Sawamura. On the other hand, he wasn't sure if Sawamura had realized yet.
But all his worries seemed to come to a stop and also restart one fateful morning. As a normal human being, Youchi was still asleep at dawn. Like usual, Sawamura had already left for his morning run. He had woken up when Sawamura left, but quickly fallen back asleep. However, not twenty minutes later, Youichi had awoken with a feeling of dread washing over him. He wasn't sure what the issue was, but something told him that heading to the field would be a good idea.
As he stepped outside, he squinted, trying to see through the early morning sunlight. He could see a figure running around the field with a tire and assumed that it was Sawamura. Nothing looked particularly out of place so he was confused about what he had been so nervous about. His instincts had rarely lead him astray.
Walking closer towards the running boy, Youichi realized it wasn’t Sawamura but instead Miyuki who was running. Though he was shocked, Youichi stayed back when he saw Sawamura sprinting to the field. Miyuki was probably just trying to mess with Sawamura. He could hear Sawamura shouting at Miyuki, and had to hold chuckles back lest he give himself away.
“You Tanuki! What are you doing? That's my partner bakayuki!” Sawamura’s face was bright red, from anger or embarrassment, Youichi didn't know. However, even from his position he could see that Sawamura’s eyes were glowing brightly, as if he'd apparently realized a hidden meaning for Miyuki using the tire.
Miyuki on the other hand looked much calmer in comparison. But there was a dawning realization in his face when he understood the implications of running with the tire. He masked this by smirking as he replied, “I'm just running bakamura. I thought I'd see what your obsession with the tire was and try it out myself.” He laughed louder before continuing, “You know, I think I look better with your partner. Maybe I should use it instead.”
Youichi had to give Miyuki credit for that line, it definitely riled Sawamura up, distracting him from their mutual realizations, as his shouts increased in volume, becoming annoyed. By the time Sawamura successfully stormed off with his tire, it was nearly practice time and Youichi had to jog back to his room to change.
The rest of the day went by as a blur though there were some notable moments. When he and Miyuki went to harass the second years like usual, oddly enough Sawamura wouldn't look at Miyuki in the eye. Even stranger was Miyuki saying nothing. Haruichi gave him confused stares that Youchi mirrored on his own face. Whatever was going on here wasn’t something anyone understood.
His answer arrived the next day in morning practice. Instead of barking at people to leave his partner alone, Sawamura just looked away when Miyuki took it for his run. There were no demands for Miyuki to catch for him. There had only been a curious glance at Miyuki’s back when he took the tire — the same as the previous morning. In fact, looking at Kanemaru’s resigned face, Youchi assumed that Sawamura had been this way all day.
He himself had noticed that Miyuki hadn’t been his sarcastic or obnoxious self all day. However, Youichi had ignored these signs because, often Miyuki closed off for a while before things were resolved — at the surface.
Youichi was conflicted about who he should confront; Sawamura who would overthink to the point of ridiculousness or Miyuki who would close up even more — potentially hurting himself again.
In the end, his worry that Miyuki would do something stupid won. Pulling Miyuki aside, Youichi dragged him to the supply shed, citing a requirement for more baseballs. Rounding on his friend, Youchi tried not to scream in frustration.
"Miyuki. What Is wrong? Why are you both behaving weirdly?” From previously questioning Miyuki, he knew that a straightforward approach was the best. However, he did not receive any response. Instead Miyuki just shook his head, blushed brightly and walked away. Seeing the blush had momentarily stumped Youchi but he did his best to shake it off, chasing after Miyuki. “Oi, bastard! You can’t just walk away! What about your role as captain or catcher?You need to be comfortable with all the pitchers!” He was grasping for straws yet nothing seemed to work.
In the end, Youichi was forced to wait until he could talk to Sawamura. Though he definitely hadn’t been expecting the mess Sawamura had become when he entered their room. Shoujo mangas were strewn around the room, Sawamura had wrapped himself tightly in a blanket and was sobbing over what seemed to be a box of ice cream and another manga.
Rubbing a hand over his face, Youchi sighed in exasperation. This was getting preposterous. Walking over to the Sawamura-lum, he unceremoniously ripped the blankets off him and pulled Sawamura into a choke-hold. “Enough is enough Bakamura! What has gotten into you and Miyuki? What happened yesterday morning? When he took your tire?”
At the word tire, Youichi saw Sawamura’s face turn red, matching the same look on Miyuki’s earlier in the day. Groaning he continued, “I don't get it? What is your issue with the tire? Shouldn't you be yelling about your partner? Not blushing?”
Some of what he said seemed to reach Sawamura, as his blush disappeared and his face sobered. A solemn look appeared as he began speaking, “The tire is my partner Kuramochi-senpai. My special partner that no one is allowed to use but me.” His face slowly went from solemn to blushing once again, “However, Miyuki Kazuya can use my tire.” His head was down, staring at his hands. He had admitted something that was very personal to him, and while Youichi was a bit proud that Sawamura could tell him, he also wanted smash his head on the wall over Sawamura’s stupidity.
A crash behind Youichi had him spinning around to see Miyuki in the doorway, and a mitt fallen on the ground. Never mind, both their stupidity. Restraining the urge to chuckle, Youichi stood up, pulled Miyuki into the room and went to leave.
“Talk your stupid tire-partner bullshit out tonight. I'm going to sleep in Zono’s room.” Just as he pulled the door close, he leaned back in, “If you do anything to my bed, Bakamura you will pay.”